California Law School Fuzzballs Hire/Fire New Dean and Meanwhile Harbor AntiSemitism

The NY Times ran an editorial about UCI Chancellor Michael Drake:
A Bad Beginning in Irvine

A law school would be mighty fortunate to have Erwin Chemerinsky, a distinguished Duke Law School professor, as its dean. The University of California, Irvine, realized this when it asked him to head up its new law school. This week, however, it rescinded the offer, evidently because of his political views. It’s a disgraceful decision. The University of California system should admit its mistake and, with apologies, extend the offer again.

Mr. Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar and much-admired teacher, is one of the shining lights of legal academia. He has also taken his profession’s public service obligations seriously, working tirelessly for civil liberties. He argued in the Supreme Court against the constitutionality of California’s “three strikes and you’re out” law and agreed to represent Valerie Plame Wilson, the C.I.A. operative exposed by the Bush administration.

His record made him an ideal choice to run the law school that U.C.-Irvine plans to open in 2009. Chancellor Michael Drake offered him the job, and Mr. Chemerinsky signed a contract. But the job was withdrawn this week. Mr. Chemerinsky says that Mr. Drake told him he was “too politically controversial” for the appointment, which still had to be confirmed by the California regents. Mr. Drake does not dispute those words, but he insisted “it was no one thing” that led him to withdraw the job, and said vaguely that he doubted he and Mr. Chemerinsky could work toward a common goal.

Applying an ideological litmus test for academic appointments is offensive. Good deans also understand their institutional responsibilities. At Harvard Law School, Elena Kagan, a former Clinton administration lawyer, has been embraced by both liberals and conservatives for her inclusive management style. Professor Chemerinsky made clear that he intended to create a law school that was neither liberal nor conservative, and he had already recruited prominent conservatives to serve on its advisory board.

Mr. Drake insisted that he made the decision himself, with no outside pressure. But his “too politically controversial” comment suggests otherwise.

If the U.C.-Irvine law school proceeds without Mr. Chemerinsky, it will open under a cloud. Law professors and students should be wary of signing on with a school founded in a spirit of intellectual intolerance. Just as unfortunate, we will never get to see the law school that the talented Professor Chemerinsky would have created.
Susan Estrich writes (The Most Corrupt Man in California) about this fracas - giving it another context:
Dr. Michael Drake, Chancellor of the University of California at Irvine, is the most corrupt man in California. His job is, or should be, to protect the "liberty" of both students and faculty, the academic freedom that is the cornerstone of great universities.

But Dr. Drake has a twisted view of academic freedom, one that allows Muslim students to engage in open anti-Semitism, to hold rallies on campus attacking Zionist control of the media, equating Jewish support for Israel with Hitler's Nazis, even (according to campus Republicans) displacing previously scheduled Young Republicans meetings with rallies denouncing Israel's right to exist. But there's no room for a liberal, Jewish law professor who is routinely the object of bidding wars between top-rated law schools vying for his services.

Last February, Hillel of Orange County formed a task force to investigate what it viewed as a troubling number of anti-Semitic speeches and incidents on the UCI campus, including complaints by Jewish students that they were being followed and harassed by their Muslim classmates. That was before UCI's Intifada week this past spring, which included speakers supporting the terrorist group Hamas and a speech entitled "Zio-Nazis." That was before the infamous Ward Churchill, defender of the 9/11 attacks, was invited to speak on campus.

This past June, at a meeting attended by hundreds of concerned members of the Jewish community in Irvine, Dr. Drake told one parent, whose children don't want to attend UC Irvine because of the virulent expressions of hatred, not to worry because these incidents "are not every other day. It's a couple times a year." Asked why he didn't exercise his own right to free speech to "speak directly to statements made on campus" (as former Harvard President Lawrence Summers did when he opposed calls for divestment from Israel by terming such actions "anti-Semitic in their effect, if not their intent"), Dr. Drake ducked. "We have 1,000 guest speakers on campus every year. Could I evaluate them and say this one is anti-Semitic? I could not. What I could say is that as a person and a campus, we abhor hate speech, period."

On the other hand, we have no room for a liberal law professor — whose views were well known before he was hired, who is squarely in the mainstream of modern constitutional thought — because we're afraid to take the heat that may be coming from some of Drake's biggest donors. While Drake told Erwin it was the Regents he was worried about, that was an out-and-out lie. He later admitted he didn't consult a one of them, and instead pointed to an op-ed Erwin wrote back in mid-August about death penalty procedure — even though he signed a contract with Chemerinsky three weeks after the op-ed was published.

No, this was Drake's call, and it will doom his law school, if it doesn't doom him first.

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